California apprentices raise money, repair air conditioning units for charities

FAIRFAX, Va. – More than 10,000 apprentices attend training at more than 150 schools across the country, so upon graduation they can become journeymen. Part of the training at the Tri Counties Sheet Metal Workers JATC, which serves San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Santa Barbara in California, includes community service, which pushes apprentices not only to become journeymen, but leaders in the sheet metal industry and their communities.

“It’s important for them to become part of the fabric of their community,” said Brian Hill, training coordinator. “It’s part of being in a local (union). It builds good character to learn to give back and communicate with people outside their comfort zone.”

Every semester, apprentices are required to complete four hours of community service. Although some students already have community service built into their lives, they participated in group activities this spring to support their local St. Patrick’s Outreach and Catholic Charities organizations.

For St. Patrick’s Outreach, students built a barbecue and gathered accessories to accompany it for auction and raised $1,250 for the organization’s food pantry. The Catholic Charities facility’s eight air conditioning units were in need of repair, so apprentices took to the rooftops to repair them. In addition, students are currently working on a stainless steel kitchen countertop at the same Catholic Charities facility.

Although it was part of the apprentices’ community service, it also was a valuable learning experience, said Dean Runquist, instructor. Students learned commissioning and troubleshooting as well as how to rebuild filter racks, replace motors and thermostats, and repair electrical issues.

“Almost every one of the units had issues,” Runquist added. “Students learned how to do start-up, testing and the paperwork. I wouldn’t let them leave the site without the paperwork in my hand. They had to learn about that. It’s vitally important on the road.”

Learning these skills in the comfort of the training center is one thing, but completing work on the rooftop of an occupied building provided challenges Runquist was happy to serve his students.

“The most they got out of it was job site conditions. Sometimes you’re working at night and you need light. You have to get the equipment up to the roof from the ground. You need to professionally deal with people. Clean up when you leave,” Runquist said. “There are some people skills there I think they learned as well. Those kind of things we can’t always teach in a classroom situation.”

Nearly 10,000 apprentices are registered at more than 150 other training facilities across the United State and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, the ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit or call 703-739-7200.

Originally posted on Eye on Sheet Metal